MY LOVE AFFAIR
At the age of twelve, I was strapping a flashlight to my bicycle handlebars, donning a football helmet and taking to the road...well...I mean the street that ran past our house in Luverne, Minnesota. But in my imagination I was on a motorcycle, and it felt good! Later on that year I met an older guy with a Norton 750 Commando who would sometimes consent to give me a ride. It only solidified that one day I would really own my own motorcycle!
Fast forward a few years to another area of Minnesota, and I remember the first time I was able to actually RIDE a motorcycle--I mean get on and actually DRIVE the bike. I was about fifteen and some friends of my older brother had some kind of bike (I honestly can't remember what it was) and they allowed me to ride it up and down the gravel road near their farm. What a kick!! I was actually getting the hang of it, and completely oblivious to the fact that gravel roads are some of the most dangerous surfaces on which to ride a motorcycle. What WAS I thinking? Oh wait...I was 15...and like all boys that age, my brain hadn't even BEGUN to contemplate the concept of consequences yet. All I knew was that I loved the feeling of all that power beneath me, and the wind in my face.
My mother was a nurse at the time, and I remember her speaking out pretty forcefully about how much she hated seeing me on a motorcycle. She shared with me a few gruesome emergency room stories in hopes of dissuading me altogether on the subject, but it didn't take. I kept riding.
But a few months later, while still living in North Dakota, I was driving by a car dealership and out of the corner of my eye I spied another beautiful Honda 750, this time a 1978 model, sitting in the showroom. The dealer had taken it in on trade and before you could say "Bob's your uncle" I was sitting in front of my friendly neighborhood banker negotiating a loan for what would be my second Honda 750. (The pictures of these two CB750s are not of my personal bikes, but rather pics I found on the web of the same model.)
By this time Honda was getting a little more on top of things in terms of styling. Notice I said "a little more." The newer 750 still had some stripes like the '75 model, [groan] but with some darker, richer colors it was attractive for its day. This bike also came my way with a Windjammer fairing—white of course, which looked weird. But then, color-matched luggage and accessories were still a few years off. I should mention that during this time I got married to a lovely young woman named Sue. My wife of over 30 years has been a faithful riding partner on many motorcycle adventures.
We fitted the bike with a matching black Vetter fairing and then later on some black Hondaline hard-sided luggage pictured here. NOW we were ready for some traveling, and we took this bike for a vacation in 1980 to the Black Hills of South Dakota, Yellowstone and then down to Salt Lake City, across the Colorado Rockies and back home by way of Nebraska. What a trip!
Moving to a Goldwing was kind of a dream come true for me. I loved the power and smooth ride that the Wings offered. The weird thing was that I was pretty much alone in my appreciation for these bikes within my age group--which was the 20-something crowd at that time. Most of the people who owned Wings were sporting a little gray hair and a LOT more experience. But for some reason that didn't deter us from loving and riding Wings.
That year (1980), Honda released the new Goldwing Interstate models. When I saw the new styling I was mesmerized. Suddenly my once-new '79 Wing looked old school. Honda had radically redesigned the Wing and I HAD to have one!
Eventually we moved from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Great Falls, Montana, and although we did some motorcycling, including a trip I took by myself to from Montana to Missouri to see an old friend, our lives began to change in many ways during that time. I'm talking HUGE changes! For one, Sue and I were facing the tragedy of a failed marriage. It was a very dark and painful time, but from the darkness came some pretty amazing light. We both gave our lives and our marriage to Jesus Christ, and found healing and restoration for years of neglect and hurt. Now more and more of our weekends were spent in church, where God was doing a very powerful work of piecing our lives and hearts back together. That meant less motorcycling. And then shortly after that we became pregnant. Suddenly I was faced with the responsibility of being a parent! Although I considered it an immense privilege, I was also afraid and like many first-time dads, I decided it was time to start letting go of some of my "toys." That included my beloved Goldwing, which I sold TOO quickly and easily.
That began an 18 year period of my life that included no motorcycles. Raising children is pretty time-consuming business, and taking family vacations now required something with a bit more seating—such as a mini-van. I felt that life had just kinda moved me into a different station—where the only two-wheeled vehicles I had around were bicycles. (I had even allowed my motorcycle license to lapse.) And although I missed my bikes, I was content moving on. Four children later I still don't necessarily regret that decision. I was just responding to life.
Sue was never thrilled with the color of this Goldwing. In fact, I distinctly remember her frown when I brought it home. Eventually I ended up making a deal with a relative who was living in Minnesota who wanted to buy it. Thinking that my touring days were behind me and all I really needed was a mid-size cruiser I got online and found a 1983 Honda Nighthawk 550. It looked exactly like what I wanted, and since it was nearer to my Minnesota relative than it was me, I convinced him to go look at it and ultimately to buy it for me. I loaded my Goldwing on a trailer and he hopped on the Nighthawk and we met one another halfway between our homes in Cheyenne, Wyoming. From there I trailered the Nighthawk home. And THAT is what began my special appreciation for the Nighthawk model—and also what motivated this website.
My 550 was nothing short of COOL. Although it had a plexiglass windshield for highway travel, it came off easily if I was just cruising around town. This bike was probably the most fun to drive of all the bikes I've ever owned. It's hard to believe that it was Honda's one-year-wonder in the Nighthawk line. It has great acceleration, wonderful handling, and it looks gorgeous. My own bike was suffering from a little exhaust pipe rust, and one of the side covers was a bit sun-faded. Other than that, I was plagued by an issue with the speedometer. I replaced the cable and even eventually had the speedometer mechanism on the front wheel replaced. I ended up figuring that the entire speedometer and tach assembly probably needed to be replaced but I never got around to it. In the summer of 2006 I sold it just after buying my fourth Goldwing—this time a 1986 Goldwing Interstate.
I added highway pegs, a driver's backrest and finally a tall Tulsa windshield to that bike, before ultimately selling it in the Fall of 2007. The reason? We had just purchased a new travel trailer for the family, and I needed to lighten my "toy" load a little. I sold it to a guy in the Boise area for $2500 and he got a wonderful deal. He knew it too as he didn't haggle on my asking price even a little.
Well, that makes NINE motorcycles all together. You suppose I'm done?
So, I made arrangements with a trucking company and had it trucked from Minnesota to Boise, Idaho (less than an hour from where I live). It's a 1982 Honda Goldwing Standard GL1100 (also called "Naked Wing.") I bought this bike with about 12,500 original miles and it is in near perfect condition. I owned it for 4 years, and sold it with just over 17,000 miles on the odometer. (One of the members of my Nighthawk Lovers discussion group who lives near Atlanta, Georgia bought it from me in the early Spring of 2012. I was kind of sorry to see it go because it was such a classic, but it was a delight to know that it was heading to someone who would appreciate and ride it with joy.
Honestly, of all the Nighthawks, I would have to say the 750 is my favorite. (The only Nighthawk I haven't ridden is the 650.) But the 750 has lots of power, even for keeping up with freeway traffic, as well as agility for city traffic and lonely country back roads.
Without a doubt, one of the most amazing events in the last few years was my wife getting into riding on two wheels. It started with me finding a small Honda Elite scooter on our local Craigslist. We decided it would be nice to have a small bike that we could load in the back of my pickup and take it along when we went camping. (We have a travel trailer and love to camp in the Idaho mountains.) The Elite worked great for scooting around McCall, Idaho or wherever we found ourselves, but what really surprised me was how much Sue enjoyed riding it on her own. I talked her into getting her motorcycle permit and we started riding together—me on my Nighthawk 750 and she on the Elite. Of course, the scooter being 110ccs, she was pretty badly out-matched in the power department, but we made the best of it.
Eventually, I felt Sue would enjoy a little more power. I tried talking her into a Nighthawk 250 but she felt most comfortable on a scooter with no shifting. I eventually backed down and started looking for some larger-size scooters (which I learned later were called "Maxi-scooters"). I test drove a few for her and by mid-summer, I located a Suzuki Burgman 400 on the Boise, Idaho Craigslist. It was a 2005 model and in excellent condition for just $2000. My wife was a bit hesitant to jump from 110ccs to 400ccs, but with some encouragement, she hopped on and never looked back. She absolutely loved her Burgman! I tried it out and found it to be fun to drive, but it was tight for my long legs.
We drove a lot throughout the summer, but there was one nagging issue. The riding position on my Nighthawk was KILLING my back! I tried putting a spacer on the handlebars but it didn't help. I knew I needed to get a more upright riding position, where my legs and feet were in front of me instead of directly under me.
It was that very idea that led me to start considering a maxi-scooter for myself. I knew my wife's bike was too small for me, both ergonomically and in the power department. Since owning several Goldwings through the years and I've been accustomed to having power when I need it. I finally located a Honda Silverwing (600cc) at a local Honda dealership, and after riding it I was impressed both with its comfort and how well it handled. It was responsive and moved easily through traffic. But I could tell it had been laid down, and the dealership wasn't willing to bend on the price. So I kept looking.
Eventually, I found another Suzuki Burgman in Washington State, just south of Tacoma. That would be about an 8-hour drive from our home on the Oregon/Idaho border, but Sue and I decided to head out and see if it might work. It was a 2004 650cc model in what appeared to be excellent condition. Some guy had bought it for his wife and she decided it was too big. I could tell he was taking a hit on the price. It included a Corbin seat as well as the stock one and a custom Givi windshield. I bought it on the spot.
Part of the enjoyment is being able to share my love for motorcycles with my wife. She has always been a fairly willing passenger, but since piloting her own bike, she's become a MANIAC! She loves going out for rides through the countryside and because of her, I've put more miles on the Burgman than I would have ever expected. We've taken a couple overnight trips into the Idaho mountains and are planning some longer rides in the months to come. And since buying a pair of Sena Bluetooth communication headsets we're enjoying riding even more.
On a personal note, my family and I live in eastern Oregon where I am the Senior Pastor of a Calvary Chapel (non-denominational) church. Our four kids all live close. My three oldest are married, and so far we have four wonderful grandkids who love getting rides on grandpa's motorcycle. Our youngest (Timothy) is also working in the area. He is the only one of my kids who has taken up my love of motorcycles, and at age 21 has already owned three Nighthawks. He started out on a 1995 Nighthawk 250 and now owns a beautiful black 1993 Nighthawk 750 and a 1985 Nighthawk 700S which he recently restored. He loves the classic Honda street bike look and is now fishing around for a larger bike for some possible road trips.
I really love honoring those great motorcycles by hosting this website and meeting Nighthawk riders from all over the world. I stay in touch with many of them by email regularly through my Nighthawk Lovers Web and Email Discussion Group. (If you haven't gotten subscribed yet, consider doing so soon. We have some great discussions and there is always a lot of helpful information.)
P.S. You can contact me here.